I thought I had this life thing figured out. When the going gets tough, you start moving, journaling, meditating, yoga-ing. If you have money, you go for a healing massage. Lay off the booze. Eat well. Go to bed early. Work smart and hard. Put down your phone. be present.
And then I had a baby.
It’s extremely difficult to do any of the above when you are at the mercy of a baby’s unpredictable schedule. And even more frustrating when you convince yourself that you can still do all of the above “when the baby is sleeping”, or when someone else is watching her.
In theory, I knew all the tricks to remaining sane during these early months of motherhood. I had read all about the “take time for yourself” and “ask for help” tips. I knew I “deserved a night off”. I knew that all of these things would make be a better, calmer, more present mother.
I knew that getting her into a good sleeping and nap routine would afford me the time to do the yoga and meditation my body so desperately needs to reconnect with mind and spirit. I knew that asking for help does not mean I had failed as a mom. I knew that depression could set in.
I knew this all in theory. But practically…
Scrap all of the above.
This is my truth: You can read and listen and ask for all the advice you want.. You can set goals like “today I WILL shower and put makeup on before 10pm”. You can plan naps and “me time” until the proverbial cows come home. You can know that all of these things will theoretically make you feel better and like you’re rocking motherhood.
But guess what? Aiming for these things, planning for that “me time”, counting on reconnecting and releasing that stress whilst the baby naps…. only made me more anxious.
Somewhere along the line I became so obsessed with preserving my self and taking that time out for me, that I ended up chasing my own tail instead of stopping and acknowledging that I has fundamentally changed. As much as I protested that I wouldn’t change when I became a Mom, the truth is that I am no longer one entity. I am forever bound to this little being we conjured from stardust into flesh and bone. The umbilical cord may be physically cut, but her and I are still very much attached.
I started getting so frustrated that I couldn’t get any time to myself in the afternoon – because let’s be honest – any me time in the morning is taken up by trying to have a shower, brush your teeth and, hopefully, feed yourself. I could not accept that perhaps, just maybe, my baby was not such a great post-lunch napper. I would spend so much time trying to rock her to sleep, that I was going mad. Suddenly I was questioning her wake up times and bed times and found myself down the google rabbit hole of “how can I get my baby to sleep”, instead of just getting to know my baby and accepting that some days she sleeps like a dream and other days she doesn’t. I was thinking of her as “she should be” instead of “she is”.
The more frustrated I got, the more I knew I needed, and became desperate for, that “me time”. With no family around to help out, I looked to my husband to provide me with this help. A husband who already works pretty much 24/7 during the busy season and is trying his best to show his love for our little family by supporting us with material comforts. A husband who I neglected to remember had also been through the same birth process and story as myself – whose body and mind and soul had also been forever changed by witnessing his first baby girl give birth to his second baby girl. I forgot that he also needed “me time” – he, too, needed a little bit of pampering. I was too busy resenting his freedom as he left the front door to go to work; I was so busy expecting his help as soon as he walked back through it, that I forgot that he was also desperately trying to cling to his old self, whilst nurturing his new me, his changed wife, his new little family. He too, needed to breathe. He, too, needed to be loved and supported.
And most importantly, I forgot my feminine power. Truth is, us ladies really do run the world. Our magic is that we are not men. Our power is that we can juggle. We can nurture a baby and our husbands and ourselves. We can clean the house and feed the family, work, shop for the groceries, and look fucking hot whilst doing it all. Yes, helpful partners are a godsend and, damn, I am so appreciative of every meal my husband cooks and every grocery shop he does, but good god, can he leave the kitchen in a mess! And shit balls, he forgot the milk at the top of the list! I might as well have done it all myself. (Isn’t it funny that we automatically look for faults, instead of just being grateful?) I was fighting so hard for my husband to do his fare share of housework and parenting, that I was slowly becoming more and more detached from both myself and my baby. I forgot that I AM THE BOSS. I forgot that if I’m anxious and grumpy, my family moves in that same direction. I am the trunk of the family willow tree, and the boughs follow my emotional breezes and whistling winds. If I’m sad, they’re sad. If I’m on edge, they’re on edge. If I’m angry, they’re angry.
Things got ugly. Someone got drunk and locked out of the house. Someone else retreated into icy silence to lick their wounds. Someone very little soaked this all in and started sleeping less and needing more love and attention.
Trying to take the time out for myself almost had me in a loony bin.
I was sad and depressed.
My husband was angry.
My baby was clingy and niggly.
Something had to give.
And, surprise, surprise, it was me. I had to stop and truly give. Even though I was exhausted, even though I had lost sight of myself on the shore, I had to dig even deeper, and find within the well of myself, an even bigger love.
I bit my tongue, and although it burnt my ass all kinds of degrees of holy hell, I sent my husband off to take out his anger and fighting energy at the gym, on the tennis court and the golf course. I gave him the me time I so desperately craved. And I gave it lovingly, without resentment or expecting anything in return, except for a happier, more connected husband.
I sighed deeply and stopped putting my baby down to sleep when the book told me she should be napping. Instead I played with her. Like really, really, played with her. I put away my phone and I put on funny voices. I got down on the floor and on the grass with her. We chatted and played and soon her eyes became sleepy and I carried her to her crib where she fell asleep as her head touched the pillow, easily and softly.
And then I showered. And ate. And instead of pressuring myself to do yoga or meditate or journal, I turned on the telly and watched some mindless program I would usually scoff at. I played on my phone – guilt-free. I got out my laptop and wrote a bit. When she still didn’t wake, I went outside and read my book. I even had a little nap. And when she still didn’t wake, I cuddled my dogs and started cooking supper. I touched my toes, reconnected, and exhaled.
I am mother. I am wife. I am writer.
I move when I can now, and only if I want to. I work smarter, not harder. I love wholly. I released my husband to nurture himself and return to me energized and loving and, most of all, willing and happy to help me. I breathe in my child, I slow down and take my shoes off. Accept that my time is no longer only mine. I show her the things I find small, and in doing so, rediscover their bigness for myself. The crunch and crackle of a dry leaf. The wet, sniffing snout of a black Labrador. The shiny brass handle of a door. The breeze dancing with the green leaves. I release the loss of freedom and I embrace the connection and attachment this little being has to me and no one else on the planet. She needs me so much it hurts to think about it. I submerged myself in this honour. For now, I am hers. And I can live with that. And the more I live with it, the more I learn to thrive from it. And as I thrive, so does my little family blossom, kindly and gently, from the birth place of all good things – love.
A huge and massive thank you to Colleen from Midlands House of Healing who heard my silent new mama cries from the other side of the country and reached out a helping hand. Over the course of a week, magic was made as Colleen healed me from afar, using energy and reiki to cut and smudge negative cords, balance chakras and re-sew myself and my two favourite people on this planet back together. If you’re feeling lost or disconnected, sad or anxious, then please get in contact with this earth angel – no matter where in the world you are. Colleen, I am eternally grateful for your light and love. Thank you xxx